Aging sure isn’t for sissies. You start to sprout hair where you don’t want it, and lose it where you do. Those once in a blue moon aches and pains can turn into a daily struggle. And perhaps worst of all, your memory isn’t always what it used to be.
But Swedish researchers now say a simple vitamin could turn out to be the key to staving off age-related memory loss. Scientists tracked more than 500 people over the age of 50 for nine years. Every year the volunteers took part in cognitive function screenings and had a brain MRI.
They were also given an annual vitamin B12 test. It turns out the folks who had plenty of vitamin B12 on board suffered from significantly less age-related memory loss and brain shrinkage than those volunteers whose B12 tests came up short.
In fact, the group with the highest B12 levels also scored the highest on memory tests, according to the study published in JAMA Psychiatry.1
The Swedish study built on prior research that had already uncovered connections between low levels of B12 and other brain-related issues including dementia, depression and mental impairments.2
And deficiencies become more common as we age and begin to absorb less of the vital vitamin from the foods we eat because of dropping stomach acid levels. Experts estimate that up to 20 percent of people over 50 are deficient in B12.3,4
Watch out for low B12 warning signs
Wondering if you might be B12 deficient? You can’t always tell without a blood test, but there are some common symptoms you can be on the lookout for.5
- Tingling or numbness in your hands, feet or legs
- Balance issues (or trouble walking)
- A swollen tongue
- Difficulty reasoning
- Jaundice (skin with a yellow tint)
And now it looks like we can add memory loss to that list too.
Age isn’t the only thing that raises your risk for a B12 deficiency. If you have celiac or Crohn’s disease you are more likely to run low on the vitamin. And if you’re taking a heartburn drug (prescription or over the counter) that reduces your stomach acid levels you may also have trouble absorbing enough B12.
Bump up your B12 levels
The best way for most folks to raise their B12 levels is to eat more foods rich in the vitamin. Wild caught fish such as sardines, salmon, tuna, and cod as well as scallops and shrimp are some of your best sources of the vitamin. Lamb, beef, yogurt and pastured eggs are all good sources as well.
If you have trouble getting enough B12 through your diet because of absorption issues, diet choices or illness a B12 supplement is another good option.